Jock Zonfrillo: Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay lead tributes after MasterChef Australia judge dies aged 46

·5-min read
 (Getty Images for AFI)
(Getty Images for AFI)

Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay have led tributes to MasterChef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo who has died aged 46.

The Glasgow-born chef, who struggled with addiction as a teenager before rising to work in top resturants and become one of Australia's best known TV figures, was found dead in Melbourne early on Monday.

The new series of Masterchef Australia was due to air on Australian television on Monday night with Oliver among its celebrity guests.

Victoria Police said they had attended an address on Lygon Street in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton for a welfare check where they found a body at around 2am. The death is not being treated as suspicious.

In a statement on Facebook, Zonfrillo's family asked the public to let them "grieve privately" and described him as an "irreplaceable husband, father, brother, son and friend".

Zonfrillo leaves behind his third wife Lauren Fried and four children.

TV chef and restaurateur Oliver shared a photo of himself with Zonfrillo and fellow MasterChef Australia judges Melissa Leong and Andy Allen.

"I'm in total shock to wake up to the sudden death of chef Jock Zonfrillo," he said.

"We had the best time working together for this year's MasterChef, I can't tell how good it was to work with him!

"Jock was very generous to me with his time and spirit in the show, and for that I was really grateful."

Oliver said Zonfrillo would be "so very missed" and sent his "heartfelt love and condolences" to his family and friends, and those who worked on MasterChef.

Ramsay also recalled working with the late chef, tweeting: "Saddened by the devastating news of Jock Zonfrillo's passing.

"I truly enjoyed the time we spent together on MasterChef in Australia. Sending all my love to Lauren and the family in this difficult time."

Indian chef and restaurateur, Kunal Kapur, known for judging MasterChef India, expressed his "deepest condolences" on Twitter.

He added: "His sudden departure from this world has left us all in shock and disbelief."

Born in Glasgow to an Italian father and Scottish mother, Zonfrillo left school aged 15 and started an apprenticeship at The Turnberry Hotel in South Ayrshire before moving on to other high-end kitchens.

He struggled with addiction from his early years after first trying heroin as a teenager and was fired from his job aged 17 following a heated argument.

In his 2021 memoir Last Shot, Zonfrillo charted his journey from "reckless drug addict" to one of Australia's best-known chefs.

A family statement posted on his Facebook page said: "With completely shattered hearts and without knowing how we can possibly move through life without him, we are devastated to share that Jock passed away yesterday.

"So many words can describe him, so many stories can be told, but at this time we're too overwhelmed to put them into words. For those who crossed his path, became his mate, or were lucky enough to be his family, keep this proud Scot in your hearts when you have your next whisky.

"We implore you to please let us grieve privately as we find a way to navigate through this and find space on the other side to celebrate our irreplaceable husband, father, brother, son and friend.".

A statement from Victoria Police said: "Police will prepare a report for the coroner following the death of a man in Carlton.

"Police attended a Lygon Street address for a welfare check and located a man deceased about 2am on May 1. The 46-year-old man's death is not being treated as suspicious."

In a joint statement issued by Network 10 and the programme’s producers Endemol Shine Australia, it was confirmed the the show will now not be broadcast this week.

“Jock was known to Australians as a chef, best-selling author, philanthropist and MasterChef judge but he will be best remembered as a loving father, husband, brother and son,” the statement said.

“Determined and talented and with plenty of grit, Jock was born in Glasgow to an Italian father and a Scottish mother, which meant his formative years were heavily influenced by two strong cultures and it was his obsession with food and desire for a new pushbike that at just 12 years old fuelled Jock to knock on kitchen doors looking for a job.

“Jock’s love and passion for food saw him become one of the youngest culinary students to do an apprenticeship at The Turnberry Hotel at just 15 years of age. From that point onwards there was no holding him back and by 17 he was working alongside Marco Pierre White at his eponymous Restaurant Marco Pierre White.”

Jock’s charisma, wicked sense of humour, generosity, passion and love for food and his family cannot be measured

Statement from Network 10 and Endemol Shine Australia

The statement continued: “Throughout his career he worked with world famous chefs and in restaurants all over the world. His talent saw him shine in the world’s most formidable kitchens and he opened Bistro Blackwood and Restaurant Orana in Adelaide after moving to Australia.

“Jock’s Restaurant Orana was recognised with the coveted distinction of three hats in both 2019 and 2020 and he also received global accolades, accepting the prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize in 2018.

“In 2019, Jock was named as a judge on MasterChef Australia in which he took great pride in challenging and coaching the contestants and, of course, inspiring a nation of home cooks.

“Jock’s charisma, wicked sense of humour, generosity, passion and love for food and his family cannot be measured. He will be greatly missed.”